S.A.F.E. Riders School Miami on Drunk Driving

A group of eight cyclists biking around the state stopped in Miami Tuesday to talk about drunk driving and safe driving. The group, called 180 S.A.F.E. Ride, is comprised of five first responders. Stay Alive from Education, based in Orlando, brings its "Street Smart" program into high schools and colleges, where paramedics and fire rescuers tell real-life stories dealing with people who've made bad choices, especially about drinking.

In case you haven't left your house -- after, say, noon — in a while, drunk driving is a big, big problem in Florida, and Miami-Dade is no exception. The county had 2314 alcohol-related crashes in 2005 (figures aren't out for 2006). The city of Miami alone had 500. There were 74 alcohol-related deaths county-wide. 180 SAFE Ride is using the state-wide trip to rally attention for their cause and to visit schools around the state — the whole bike thing is essentially a gimmick to make heads turn, and an effective one. As their web site shows, they've garnered a good bit of media attention already.

Ironically, the group was escorted to Fire Rescue Headquarters by the county Motorcycle Emergency Response Team. Jim Russell, who founded the group and masterminded the bike ride, says he found the gesture considerate: "Miami really threw its doors open to us," he said.

Well, maybe. But maybe the riders would have found their reception a little colder without the motorcycle escort — ever tried to bike A1A? Obvious bike route that it is, the road is one of the least accommodating to bicycles in the county.

Which brings the Bike Blog to this point — it's great that the county welcomes a group that condemns drunk driving. But until bike accommodations and public transportation become more than symbolic talking points — until they get good enough that people actually stop driving — all that pomp and ceremony is unlikely to save many lives.

If Miami-Dade wants fewer traffic fatalities, the Bike Blog suggests that it set a new goal for itself: fewer cars. --Isaiah Thompson

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